The Asian film community turns its gaze towards Cannes this week as the world's most prestigious film festival begins its 12-day run, with hopes high that a small but strong selection of productions can continue the success the region had last year.
The Festival de Cannes ( http://www.festival-cannes.com) runs from May 11-22 and will in total feature 60 films in competition and around 1,000 other screenings, to go along with all the parties, red carpet galas and of course the ever-important film market, where the actual business of making deals - and of making films - is done.
Last year saw Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul scoop the festival's most prestigious prize - the Palme d'Or - with his haunting take of the afterlife Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and 2011 sees two Asian productions in the running for the same award, which will be chosen from a field of 19. Japan has Naomi Kawase represented with Hanezu No Tsuki - which has modern characters recalling the ancient history of Japan's Asuka region - as well as festival favorite Takashi Miike with the 3D epic Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai , which is a remake of the classic 1962 production Seppuku.
There are four Asian productions in the Un Certain Regard section - used often to encourage the careers of the world's emerging directors - and combined with special screenings and the presence of all the major Asian film companies at the Cannes market, interest in the 2011 edition of Cannes is at fever pitch. Hundreds of members of the Asian media - from film industry correspondents, to paparazi to the by-now ubiquitous fan-boy bloggers - are already making their way to the French seaside city.
''Cannes is always the big one,'' says Patrick Frater, CEO of Asian film industry watchers Film Business Asia ( http://www.filmbiz.asia). ''Everyone likes to jostle and say my festival is bigger than your festival but they are all jostling for second place behind Cannes.''
Surprisingly, given the much-publicized rise of the Chinese cinema industry, there are no Chinese films screening at Cannes this year outside the Hong Kong-based Peter Chan's martial arts epic Wu Xia which got a nod in the Midnight Screening section.
''It's interesting that there were no major commerical Chinese films selected given its growing role in the world market,'' says Frater. ''But that might have just been down to timing more than anything. It was quite well signalled that this year was going to be the year of European directors who had been to Cannes before and I think you can see that in the selections."
There's a lot of established 'Cannes family' filmmakers so maybe ths year it was just the turn of the Asians to suffer a little bit. Asia might bounce back at the next big festival but it's just a shame that they are not going to enjoy the biggest spotlight of the year, which is Cannes.''
Trailers for Asian films in competion at Cannes 2011:
Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (Japan, directed by Takashi Miike): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZkd2XfzOys
Hanezu no Tsuki (Japan, directed by Naomi Kawase): N\A
Un Certain Regard
The Day He Arrives (South Korea, directed by Hong Sang-soo): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsIZbNhe8bM&feature=related
Tatsumi (Singapore, directed by Eric Khoo): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGkEbnNuSCU
Arirang (South Korea, directed by Kim Ki-duk): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBqFVhs9UAE
The Yellow Sea (South Korea, directed by Na Hong-jin): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czR0TI2XrPk&feature=related